Renewable Energy

With Tesla's solar roof, you'll never have to know these houses are solar-powered

An image of Tesla's solar roof, new Powerwall 2 and Tesla charger.

Tesla unveiled its solar roof on Friday, but it will take a keen eye to pick out which houses have them installed.

Both Tesla and SolarCity jointly announced a combined solar roof and battery pack system they say will accelerate a global transition to sustainable energy.

Tesla Chairman and CEO (and SolarCity chairman) Elon Musk said he wants to make a solar roof that will look better, last longer, provide better insulation and — of course — generate electricity for a home.

Tesla's Powerwall 2
Source: Tesla

"The key is it needs to be beautiful, affordable, and seamlessly integrated," Musk said at a Los Angeles event for Tesla's roof and battery system. "If all those things are true, why would you go in any other direction?"

Indeed the shingles do look strikingly similar to conventional roof versions.



Yes, those are solar roofs in the pictures. The big reveal took place at Universal Studios' "Wisteria Lane," a street that was home to the set of the ABC television show "Desperate Housewives."


Many of the houses around the stage set up for the event were outfitted with Tesla's solar roof shingles. Tesla has a few varieties, and they are designed to match common roof shingle or tile styles (such as terra cotta tiles, French slate, and so on).

Musk said the textured glass tiles are all slightly unique — a byproduct of the production process, and are stronger than the materials they mimic in appearance.

Musk also introduced the Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 products, both of which double the capacity of previous models. A single Powerwall 2 unit, which sells for $5,500, is enough to power the fridge, lights and electrical sockets in a four-bedroom house for a day. With a panel, he added, it can power one indefinitely.

Tesla's solar roof in terra cotta

Musk did not provide specific pricing details on the roof itself, simply saying it will "have an installed cost that is less than a normal roof plus the cost of electricity."

"If you have a solar roof, and a battery pack in your house, and an electric car, that is something that scales worldwide," Musk said. "You can solve the whole energy equation with that."

The much larger Powerpack is meant for commercial and industrial users, including utilities. "This can scale to unlimited size," Musk said. The company already has two U.S. utility installation projects planned or in the works — one in southern California and another planned on the island of Kauai.


Friday's event comes ahead of the Nov. 17 shareholder vote on Tesla's planned merger with SolarCity. While some have criticized the deal, Musk has insisted it is a key part of Tesla's future development.

If the merger is approved next month, Tesla has an agreement with Panasonic to manufacture solar cells at a plant in Buffalo. The Buffalo News has reported that the plant will initially be focused on producing solar cells for the roof.

In introducing the latest version of the Powerwall, Powerpack and the solar roof, Musk emphasized the synergy that occurs when all of the systems are integrated.

(Disclosure: Universal Studios and CNBC are both units of Comcast's NBCUniversal.)